Sunday, May 10, 2009

Adamson House: Malibu Tiles

From the 1910s-1930s, hundreds of small potteries sprung up around Southern California to produce the tiles that were used in the era's popular Spanish revival and Mediterranean-style homes. One of the largest and most successful of the California tile companies was Malibu Potteries which operated from 1926-1932 and utilized the region's natural red clay.

The Adamson House is located in Malibu next to Surfrider Beach and is open to the public for tours. The Spanish revival architecture is nothing special, but the house's interior and exterior are decorated with hundreds of beautiful, original Malibu Pottery tiles.

A view of the Adamson House:

The most impressive and best-preserved tilework is in the interior of the house in the kitchen and the 5 bathrooms. Unfortunately, interior photography is not allowed so all of my photos are of the tiles that decorate the various exterior patios and courtyards. Many of the richly patterned tiles are inspired by traditional Spanish and Moorish designs or by Arts and Crafts flower motifs:

Many of these old tiles used toxic substances such as arsenic to achieve vibrant colors and glaze effects.

Individual tiles are set into the thick adobe walls around the doors leading out to the patios:

Here are some details of individual tiles which include flowers and vines, geometric patterns, and some modern designs:

This colorful peacock fountain is on the ground-level patio facing the beach:

A detail of the peacock's head:

A view of the tiles which form the right peacock on the fountain:

If you look closely at the left peacock's tail you can see that one of the tiles was placed upside down:

A hummingbird:

Details of the tilework along the edges of the fountain:

Another peacock-themed piece on one of the side patios:

Here is a detail of the Green Man fountain on the East side of the house. In the chipped section above the Green Man's head, you can see the Malibu red clay used for the tiles:

Below is a map with the Adamson House's location. The lagoon next to the house is full of hundreds of birds that love the mix of fresh water and sea water where Malibu Creek meets the Pacific Ocean. Information about tours and visiting hours are available at the Adamson House website.

View Adamson House in a larger map


  1. You really got some great shots. One interesting note, the tile wasn't place upside down by accident. In the Muslim tradition of not creating perfection (because only God does it perfectly), one tile was intentionally placed upside down...............:)

  2. Fantastic. You did a great job in documenting the tiles. I have a couple of Malibu tiles and I treasure them

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  4. I love the peacock tiles. I don't leave imperfections on purpose. That seems too flashy.

  5. That is a awesome location for a house!

    The peacocks are wonderful. The colours are fantastic.

    Super place to have a home!

    Claire x

  6. Thank you for the time and effort to post the magnificant tile work of the Malibu Tile Co. in the Adamson House exterior. Time and heat did not allow me to photo all the tiles I saw yesterday (26 Aug 2009). Tiles of this quality will never be made again unless environmental concerns are thrown to the wind. A very nice summary!